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The LORD Appeared to Abraham and Abraham Pleaded for Sodom

The LORD appeared to Abraham. The LORD promised that Sarah would have a son. Sarah laughed in disbelief. Abraham pleaded with the LORD to spare Sodom.

Genesis Chapter 18

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. Genesis 18: 1-2

To escape the hot afternoon sun, Abraham was sitting in the shade at the entrance to his tent that was pitched near some oaks trees that belonged to an Amorite named Mamre. He saw what appeared to be three men standing nearby. Acknowledging their importance, he hurried to meet them. Abraham then bowed low to the ground as a sign of respect and submission to their superiority. One of those three men was the LORD. We later learn in Genesis chapter 19 that the other two visitors were angels.

The word LORD found in the English translations of the Old Testament, when spelled in all capitals, represents the personal name of God. This name is comprised of the four Hebrew consonants – Yod, Hey, Vav, and Hey. These four consonants, as recorded in the oldest hand written scrolls, had no accompanying vowels. Therefore, the exact pronunciation of these four letters is unsure. Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey is known as the “Ineffable” or “Unutterable” Name of the God of Israel.

The English name “Jehovah” was constructed by Roman Catholics sometime in the middle ages, based on a misunderstanding of Masoretic Hebrew texts. It is a hybrid word consisting of the Tetragrammaton or 4 letters (“J” used to be pronounced as “Y”) and the vowels for the word “Adonai” which means supreme master or lord.

The personal name of God, which is represented in our English Bibles as LORD or Jehovah, is more accurately pronounced as Yahveh or Yahweh.

I Am that I Am (‘ehyeh ašer ‘ehyeh) is a common English translation of the response God used in the Hebrew Bible when Moses asked for his name (Exodus 3:14). Hayah means “existed” or “was” in Hebrew. “Ehyeh” is the first person singular imperfect form of “hayah” and is usually translated as “I will be.” Ehyeh asher ehyeh literally translates as “I Will Be What I Will Be.”However, in most English Bibles, this phrase is rendered as I am that I am.

In Exodus 3:14, God is speaking and reveals His name in the first person. This Hebrew name for God is “Ehyeh” and is commonly translated as “I am.”

When Jesus was speaking in the courts of the temple he addressed his fellow Jews by saying:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.”

Then said the Jews unto him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?”

Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:56-58

When Jesus finished by saying, “… before Abraham was, I am,” the next verse reveals the reaction of the crowd: At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:59

The crowd he addressed in the temple was going to stone Jesus for what they believed was blasphemy. Not only did Jesus claim to pre-exist the patriarch Abraham, but He identified himself as God using God’s name – I AM.

When the LORD appeared to Abraham in the form of a man along with two angels, it was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” Genesis 18:3-5

In our English translation it reads that Abraham said, “I f I have found favor in your eyes my lord…” In verse 3 of Genesis 18, the letters of the word lord are in a lower case because the Hebrew word being translated is Adonai which is a title of respect. It is not LORD written in capitals which denotes Yahweh – God’s name.

In ancient times the foot was protected only by sandals or soles, which fastened round the foot with straps. It was therefore very refreshing in Canaan’s hot climate to get one’s feet washed at the end of a day’s journey and rest under a shady tree. Although Abraham had 318 trained men at his command and many servants, he implores his visitors to allow him to personally serve them.

Abraham who was very wealthy and influential displays humility and personally cares for his guests making sure that they have their feet washed. This is a foreshadowing of the ministry of the Son of God who would humble himself by being made in human likeness and would take on the very nature of a servant.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:5

Washing feet was a chore that was given to the lowliest servant in the home. Although Jesus, the Son of God is the captain of the hosts of heaven, He demonstrated humility and set an example of servanthood for His followers.

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “Get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. Genesis 18:6-8

Abraham the patriarch of the Jews, not only set a select prepared calf before the LORD and His two angels, but gave them curds to eat and milk to drink along with their meat dish.

Rabbinical Judaism insists that in order to keep kosher, milk and meat cannot be eaten together. An orthodox Jewish home always has two sets of dishes, pots, and pans. One set is used exclusively for meat and the other for dairy products. But as found in Exodus 23:19, 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21 the Torah only commands the following restriction: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

One explanation as to why cooking a goat in its mother’s milk was prohibited is that it may have been one of the ways the Canaanites would offer up sacrifices. After boiling the young goat they would take the milk and sprinkle all the trees, fields, gardens, and orchards around for the purpose of making them more fruitful the following year. Then they would eat the young goat.

Another possibility in understanding the intent of this restriction is that it is a prohibition against cruelty. The life of a suckling kid should be sustained by its mother’s milk and not a means of its death.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” Genesis 18:9-15

Sarah was situated behind the LORD as she listened at the entrance to the tent. God is omniscient and not only knew what was going on behind Him, but what was in Sarah’s heart. Sarah laughed to herself in disbelief. In her fear and shame, she lied and said that she did not laugh.

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Genesis 17:17-18

The fact that Abraham also sought a blessing for Ishmael attests to the fact that Abraham believed that he and his wife Sarah would be blessed with a son in spite of their advanced ages. Therefore, Abraham’s laughter was a reaction of his delight because he believed God’s promise, while Sarah laughed because of her doubt.

The appropriate response for the question, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” is found in Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?

Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:16-19

The LORD asked a rhetorical question, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” Then He makes it clear to the angels with Him as to why He will share his plans with Abraham. Abraham would become the patriarch of Israel and in the line of the Messiah. Abraham was chosen because the LORD foreknew that Abraham would be faithful, not only to direct his children to be devout worshippers and keep the way of the LORD, but his servants as well.

Before the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land they were given this command:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:4-7

Parents have the primary responsibility to instruct their own children in the ways of the Lord. Sunday school teachers and pastors should serve in a supportive role, but are not in the position to raise other people’s children.

Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20-21

According to 2 Peter 2:7, Lot was a righteous man who was distressed by the filthy lives of the lawless men who dwelled in Sodom. Most probably the outcry against these wicked cities was from Lot because only he, his wife and his two daughters were initially spared from God’s judgment upon these cities and their inhabitants.

God, who is omniscient, already knew that the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was an accurate assessment of their wicked deeds. But the purpose of His manifest presence and personal investigation of the matter along with two angels was for the benefit of Abraham and a foreshadowing of the requirements of Torah.

One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Deuteronomy 19:15

The investigation by the LORD and His two angels was to establish the validity of the accusations against the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Genesis 18:22-26

The two angels went towards Sodom but the LORD remained with Abraham. Abraham knew that the LORD would judge righteously. Since the angels were heading for Sodom, Abraham probably had Lot in mind when he asked the LORD, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” This is the first record of intercessory prayer in the Bible.

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:27-28

Abraham comes before the LORD his Creator in humility stating that he was created from the dust and would return to the dust. Note that the LORD did not rebuke Abraham either for pleading for the city to be spared or for negotiating down the number of righteous people necessary to spare the city.

Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

Then he said, “May the LORD not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the LORD, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

Then he said, “May the LORD not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home. Genesis 18:29-33

For the sake of ten righteous people, the LORD would spare Sodom and not destroy the city.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. Genesis 7:11-13

Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives were the only people on the entire earth who were saved from the outpouring of God’s judgment. In the days of Noah, the number of righteous only totaled eight people falling short of ten, and therefore the earth was not spared but destroyed by the flood.

The first synagogues probably originated during the Babylonian captivity of 606-536 B.C. Enslaved Jewish exiles who had been carried far from their homeland obviously could not travel to the temple to worship, and so they began to gather together in communities (“assemblies,” or “synagogues”) dedicated to preserving the word of God and their devotion to the Torah. Although the Jews were permitted to return home in 536 B.C. (Ezra 2), millions never returned to Israel, but instead continued to live dispersed through various parts of the world. In Jesus’ day, there were 4.5 million Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire, a most of whom belonged to a local synagogue in the community where they lived. Thus, there were faithful “pockets” of Judaism scattered throughout the civilized world because of the existence of synagogues.

By the first century A.D., the synagogue had become a center of Jewish religious and social life in most communities. To establish a synagogue, a community first needed to have ten adult Jewish males called a minyan. An adult Jew is any Jewish male who has passed his thirteenth birthday. The most common activities requiring a minyan is public prayer and public reading of the Torah. Although some people believe that concept of ten men to form a minyan was based upon ten righteous to spare Sodom, the Biblical source for the requirement of ten men to complete a “minyan” (literally – count or number) is from Numbers 14:27. Moses sent spies to scout the land of Canaan. Ten of them returned and issued a report concluding that it was not a conquerable land. God was angered their lack of faith. He turns to Moses and Aaron telling them: “How long will this evil ‘assembly’ provoke [the Jewish nation] to complain against Me?” From here it is deduced that an ‘assembly’ is comprised of ten men.

It was easy to find an assembly of ten wicked men among the Israelites in the wilderness, but ten righteous men could not be found in Sodom.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8

Because of the graciousness and mercy of the LORD, had ten righteous men resided in the City of Sodom it would have been spared in spite of the extreme wickedness of its people.